A mini-Neuschwanstein perches precariously above the immense body of water before you, an architectural folly that, surprisingly, did not spring from the fevered dreams of Mad King Ludwig. In truth, it was an early-twentieth-century German oil baron who treated himself to this gray-stone home, named after a small songbird. Its long-forgotten Anglo-Russian architect, who was tutored briefly by Rodin, had a distinctly sylvan surname—if you recall the classic outlaw tale.
A vintage trolley chugs along for more than fifty miles to reach the southeastern coast of this Sicily-sized peninsula, where a number of ancient civilizations left their mark; the remains of a Flavian Roman castrum are so close to this outcrop that you could trip over them. Just up the coast lies the home of a beloved dramaturge where literary giants once chattered, its now-frail white walls sadly fallen into disrepair. From famous photos, you may recognize the ivory neo-Renaissance palace just two miles south of there where three of the last century’s most incongruous leaders parleyed. And if you have a passion for dactylic dimeter, you’ll surely get a charge out of heading farther west to see where mounted heroes once (literally) gave it their all.
You can depart by following a fragrant four-mile path that was laid out for emperors, or you can make a flashy exit by boat. Either way, there’s no need to rush. This cliff view is one of the region’s most picturesque, and you’ll find a modest Italian restaurant in one of the castle’s former bedrooms. Pasta in a palace? Dreams do come true.